Vuelta 2018: Stage 5 – Clarke wins stage, Molard moves into red

Another so-called Vuelta sprint stage – this time with over 2,500m of vertical gain from the Moorish grandeur of Granada down to the coast. Victory came from a three-up sprint for the line between riders who’d initially been part of the day’s large break. Simon Clarke (EF-Drapac) prevailed ahead of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) to take his team’s first WorldTour win of the season. The trio’s cat-and-mousing in the final kilometres meant they were almost caught by the threesome in red-hot pursuit, which contained Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) who crucially finished 4:47 ahead of race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), sufficient to take the race lead and red jersey by 1:01. It’s the first time in 13 years that an FDJ rider has worn a race leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour. Break out the champagne!

Rider of the Race

Congratulations to Simon Clarke for rescuing his team’s season by winning its first WorldTour race on a fast and furious stage but, unlike yesterday, that’s not going to be enough to take this prestigious award. A hug from his team manager is going to have to suffice! No, the honour goes to the sixth-placed rider, who crucially finished sufficiently ahead of the race leader to take the red jersey. Arise Rudy Molard, part of today’s mass escape, who almost single-handedly led the chasing threesome in pursuit of the trio up front for the final 30km.

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After the winning trio rode clear, 28-year-old Rudy chased hard with Floris de Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Davide Villella (Astana), knowing that he had a shot at the red leader’s jersey if he kept his gap to four minutes on the peloton and race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky). Once the trio up front started playing games, the chasers came very close to bridging, but it was too late. Clarke won the sprint and Rudy’s consolation prize for finishing 4:47 ahead of Kwiatkowski was the overall lead!

Post-stage, the new race leader confirmed his role is still to assist team leader Thibaut Pinot, although he admitted it would be good to hang onto the jersey at least until Sunday:

I consider myself a team man, responsible for looking after my leader. Escaping and collecting a reward like this is an unexpected bonus. Carrying the race lead fills me with pride, although I have no doubt about my mission: to help Pinot reach the highest level in the overall … and to look for victory in the mountains.

You may recall Molard scored the biggest win of his career this spring when he claimed stage 6 of Paris-Nice in Vence. FDJ last held the overall lead in the Vuelta in 2005, when Brad McGee wore the then-golden jersey for four days. Happy Days are here again!

The final word

Stage results

1 Simon Clarke (EF-Drapac) 4:36:07

2 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) same time

3 Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) s/t

4 Davide Villella (Astana) +0:08

5 Floris De Tier (LottoNL-Jumbo) s/t

GC standings

1 Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) 18:27:40

2 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) +1:01

3 Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe) +1:08

4 Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) +1:11

5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:13

6 Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) +1:26

7 Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) +1:31

8 Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:34

9 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1:34

10 Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) +1:38

All the jerseys

Leader’s jersey: Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ)

Points jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski(Sky)

Climber’s jersey: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)

Combined jersey: Alejandro Valverde(Sky)

Team classification: Astana

Official Vuelta website is here;  Full stage review from cyclingnews

Header: ©Unipublic / Luis Ángel Gómez

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